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To 4-stringers Not Comfortable On A Five...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I've always been curious as to why you're not comfortable on a five. Not that I have anything against four-strings at all, but I was wondering if it's mostly a technique preference issue, like the lack of ability to wrap your thumb around the top. I've heard some say that a five-string neck is too wide, but other than for wrapping your thumb around the top, I've never seen how it could be percieved as too wide, as it's basically a four-string with an additional low string that you don't even have to play if you so choose. Basses with higher strings have the problem of stretching over the additional higher strings, but there is no extra stretch to the standard EADG on a fiver. It can be looked at and played exactly like a four IME, but I don't know how others feel. Opinions?
  2. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    For me, it's not a quesiton of comfort. I've only played fives in guitar stores, and wasn't able to communicate mentally with the bass. When I play on a four string, I know what note I'm playing and everything, but playing with five or more confuses me. It would be something I would need to get used to. I played my Ric with big inlays and 20 frets before I moved on to my inlay-less Warwick Thumb with 26 frets. Above 19ish frets, I would have no idea where to go and got confused. After some time playing and adapting, I am now able to play there no problem, and still play my ric and other basses. It's a question of time put into the additional frets/ strings and such.
  3. DubDubs


    Aug 23, 2004
    Los Angeles
    I find 5 stirngs uncomfotable becuase I'm so used to the E being the lowest string. And the width is uncomfortable, it's too wide. Sure I can play it easly but the extra width seems strnage and uncomfortable.
  4. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    This is one of the questions I was talking about. If your thumb rests on the B string, then there's no extra width across the strings, and if your thumb stays behind on the neck, you can keep it in the same position as you would on a four. So where to do you feel the extra width?
  5. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    I have been playing >4 string instruments for a long time, but in many ways, I still find them to feel very different than 4 strings. Not uncomfortable to me per se, but very different. While I have no problem with wide necks (I am an upright player by training), I do find that with so much more tension on the neck and body, they respond differently that 4's and as such they just feel different.

    Because of the very different physics that take place within the instrument, I do find that I naturally adjustment my technique on >4's. So my technique looks a bit varied as I move from 5-7 strings, all of which I play.

    I would venture to guess that it is these issues of physics which make the 5-er a very different experience for some folks so much so that they don't veer from the 4. They might not even be totally consciously aware of why they are uncomfortable, but they know that when they approach the instruemnt with the same technique as they do a 4, they do not get the same result!

    Remember too that the string tension issue really makes a difference on lower end instruments, where a lot of bassist first venture into >4 territory. So while a low-end model's 4-string could be an okay instrument, the 5-string version of that model could feel and sound like a cardboard box with strings!

    Just my $.02.
  6. 5 strings feel a bit goofy to me, because I always rest my thumb when I'm playing on either the pickup or the E string, adding another string makes it a little goofy feeling. And playability, having the extra string there makes somethings played on a 4 a little bit more difficult on a 5. And the neck is a little bit bigger, so it's a tiny bit more fatiguing.

    My real gripe of 5 strings is that a lot of them have narrow spacing at the bridge, I like the feel of a Stingray 4 or a J bass.
  7. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    When i first got my 5 string Spector Q5 i was confused/uncomfortable. After playing it more, you get used to the 5th string. I can still wrap my thumb around the top of the neck in certain situations as well. The Spector neck is quite flat so its rather comfortable.
  8. Mike Money

    Mike Money Banned

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    For me, it depends on the bass...

    And its usually the G that throws me off. :-/
  9. DubDubs


    Aug 23, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Yea but I'm never have my thumb resting on a string it feels just as strange as the extra neck width. I always rest my thumb on one of the pickups or don't rest in on anyting or very occationally the base of the neck. I pick up a 5 string for at least a little while every time I see one and it gets a little easyer everytime and I'm sure if I bought one I'd be used to it. What I really want to get is a EADGC 5 string. Not only does it solve the e not being the lowest string problem but I usually have more trouble finding easyer ways to play high notes and sometimes can't play some note but rarely have the same problems with low notes.
  10. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    It's not that I find 5 strings uncomfortable, the extra string is just a hassle most of the time. When I play with a pick it is expecially in the way, but I have adjusted. I also don't use the B string much at all. The 4's just feel better in my hand. I like to be able to rest my thumb over the top of the fretboard, and a 4 string neck fills my hand in a very pleasing way.

    However, I can only play a 5 with regular string spacing. I had a Samick copy of a Stingray 5 with tight spacing, and I thought I could adjust. I could not. I was just way to cramped. I have spent some extended playing time on a Warwick Streamer Stage 2, and found it to be just as uncomfortable.

    So, tight spacing and one more sting to mute. I hope that was help.
  11. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    I would like to add that most of the problems stated above would eventually be solved by owning a 5, and not just by playing one in a shop, no matter how long the time.

    I own two 4 stings and one 5. The 5 gets no love anymore, but looks so sexy that I can't let her go. ;)
  12. I've been playing 4-string for >25 years, so changing to a 5 would be hard. I've tried, though. Just when I thought I had it down, I gigged with the 5........it wasn't a pretty sight. Licks that I took for granted and played without thinking unfortunately crashed and burned on the 5. I just have to concentrate too hard to avoid making mistakes.

    There's only a few songs that we play that would really warrant a B string, and to me, it's just not worth the effort.
    Besides, 4-strings have done the job since 1951 by some of the greatest bassists who ever played the instrument. And the bassists that I admire most.....Rocco, Sklar, Dunn, Glaub, Osborne, McCartney.....get it done quite well with 4 strings.....so I'm in good company. :smug:

  13. Squidfinger

    Squidfinger I wish I could sing like Rick Danko.

    Jan 7, 2004
    Shreveport LA

    I can't rest a 5er in the crook of my hand and keep playing as easily as I can on a 4. The neck feels flatter while the neck on a 4 feels more C shaped (usually). I'm just gonna stick with 4's and string some of them BEAD and leave the rest EADG.
  14. josh_m


    May 5, 2004
    Davie, Fl
    Yeah, I'm not comfortable on a five, not physically uncomfortable but mentally. Then again I'm not comfortable on a lot of 4's either, and my friend has a 6 that I really connected to.
  15. I've only played two 5'ers - one was a Fender P bass I think (didn't like it because the neck was too big, I'm used to my J neck [small hands, smell like cabbage]), and the other was of a make I didn't recognise and thus can't remember what it was - there was no issue of me being able to play it, I actually did a really good job on it (the bass player gave me the bass and said "Go ahead!" to which I replied by not really butchering 'Roadhouse Blues') but I found it to be really heavy.

    When I find a good 5'er with a thin neck, not too heavy, etc. I'll probly get it.
    Or at least put a deposit on it. :D
  16. bigcatJC


    Jul 9, 2004
    For me as a fretless player (90% of the time), it's a matter of intonation. On most fretless 4 stringers, I can play in tune after warming up for 5 minutes. Less if it's a Jazz-shaped neck, since that's what I've always played :) .

    Five and six stringers are more difficult for me to play in tune, especially with chords. I just don't have those long, spidery fingers some people do. Scale length makes a difference, too. It's amazing how that extra inch on a 35 throws me off!

    Having said all that, the most comfortable 5 string I've played has been a Stingray 5; the most comfortable 6 was a Cirrus. (Both were fretless, BTW) I suspect I liked them because the tight string spacing fit me better.
  17. shizack


    Aug 24, 2004
    I'm a thumb-on-pickup player, getting mentally used to the top string being a "B" rather than "E" was utterly mind-boggling at first. After about 2 weeks of refusing to give up, one day it just didn't bother me any more. I now feel as comfortable on the Fiver (Epi Les Paul Standard) as I ever did on the old "4-Banger" (Gibson T-Bird - wish I still had it). My advice is to stick with it - it will seem natural a lot quicker than you may think. Playing 2-octave scales in a 5-fret range is a major plus, too.
  18. Coming from the upright -- I never wrap my thumb around at the top - according to Simandl opposing thumb (usually opposite the middle finger) gives the power to the other fingers. Only in those chording situation in some solos do I use the thumb to fret the low string. For me -- unless it is a good five -- the B can really be muddy. I have in the past tuned 4 string basses like a cello C-G-D-A and and was the best way to get the extended range without going to a five. I have medium small hands but I played the upright which really has a larger circumference so the width of a 5 string is really no big deal, but it is really the flat fingerboard the throws me off. I like the musicman, pedulla and fender 5's because they have a bit of a radius in the fingerboard and that really helps in moving around as opposed to a Warwick or Ibanez 5. I have a 5 but mostly play the four unless the music calls for a low C or low B. Why owuld you also get a five it the low B serves as a finger rest only, There is more fulcrum using the neck, pickup, the body or even the bridge. However I do notice a much fuller tone on the E-A-D-G strings with a neck that has more mass i.e a five string neck compared to a 4.
  19. jucas


    Dec 14, 2003
    They just don't feel right. Its not uncomfortable, or too wide (although I know I'm guilty of wrapping the thumb around now and then) Just not quite right. I never thought I'd go above 4, but the store I ordered my fretless from accidently got a 5 in so I ended up with one. Its a Godin A5, so I wouldn't call it low end, not super high quality, but not low end by anymeans. I find the tension thing a little wierd, and am going to try a high C.

    I know, its not much of an explanation, and I'm sure that with time I'd be fine with it, but it seems unnatural to me.

  20. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Mostly because almost nobody makes a 5 with the right nut width (2.18" +/-), and those that do (Warmoth, Moses) are for now out of my price range.

    Other than that, I think 5s do have this sort of, well, different feel to them. I'm rather comfortable on 6s and 7s, and 5s have this vibe of their own. I've long held that the best bass I've ever played was a 7, and am more comfortable on a 6 or 7 than a 5 string.

    That said, there's something to be said for 4s. Now, I'm not a huge fan of any number of strings, but when you get a 4 string, sling it low, and start bashing on it with a pick, it's this really unique feeling that just not the same on anything else.